Summer is still going strong in the Pacific Northwest, and the skies were set to be clear for the peak of the Perseid meteor shower on August 11th. A high camp and a peak that could be framed with a northeasterly view were sought. Heavy traffic past Everett derailed any thoughts of the long approach into Glacier Peak we had planned, but my insatiable appetite for reading trip reports and ability to visualize Google Earth in my mind helped us pick out a suitable alternative in Eldorado Peak. A quick stop to purchase the new map (10 essentials!) and we were off to Marblemount to get permits and crash Friday night along the Cascade River Rd.

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Despite a relaxed morning with an extended snooze session, we beat the heat up the steep gruelling approach to Rousch basin and eventually Eldorado Glacier. We set up camp atop the large flat step on the Eldorado Glacier with a mind towards framing the peak and the Perseid constellation as it rose through the sky. Even with a 17mm lens, this proved difficult, so we settled on framing the peak nicely and hoping for meteors to streak all across the sky.

After settling into camp I set the camera up and waited for nightfall. Hazy skies off to the south and west from forest fires had me concerned, but luck allowed clear views towards Eldorado and the stars beyond. I normally would have been disappointed with the less than stellar sunset, but I knew the real show was coming overnight. As the last bits of light faded away I was impressed at how complete the darkness was – even at f/2.8 and 30” (seconds), I was forced to shoot at ISO3200, not the preferred choice for my 60D. But I choose a bit of noise over star trails and set the timer to take an image every 35”. I stayed up as long as I could before retiring to the subtle noise of shutter actuations.

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I woke partway through the night to find the moon had risen already, probably should have planned for that! Fortunately my initial exposure setting was a bit dark, and the moon didn’t enter the frame. The extra light illuminated the foreground and balanced out the dazzling sky. Phew! Back to bed, and this time didn’t even set an alarm for sunrise… my camera was occupied anyway!

The climb of Eldorado went splendidly and we made the harrowing ascent up the knife-edge ridge, which was made slightly less harrowing since we followed a skiier who skinned half of the summit ridge – craziness! We consumed food at the Marblemount staple Good Food before loading up on caffeine and making the drive back to Seattle. A quick view of the timelapse images at home brought forth a pleasant surprise: aurora! I’ve never seen the light show of charged particles in person, and given how faint the aurora is in the video, it likely wouldn’t have been visible to the naked eye, so I might just take this as my first sighting!

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Technical details: For the curious, the timelapse was shot for roughly 5.5 hours and compiled at 24fps – I’ve found this to be sufficiently smooth for star trail timelapses. Each image is a 30 second exposure, spaced 35 seconds apart (5 second delay to ensure camera buffer stays empty). There are a number of airplanes, satellites and non-meteors captured, unfortunately. There is at least one geostationary satellite (look carefully-it doesn’t move!) and one meteor explosion (0:20). Enjoy!

Perseid meteror shower over Eldorado Peak from Erik Turner on Vimeo.

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